Fusion under fire over leisure services

Southend Council’s leisure provider is under fire again for not resuming enough services following the easing of lockdown restrictions.

Residents who use Southend Leisure and Tennis Centre and Clements Hall Leisure Centre in Rochford, run by Fusion Lifestyle, say the service is falling far short of pre-COVID levels.

At Clements Hall only one hour-long family swim session is being offered between Tuesday and Saturday, increasing to hourly slots up to 3pm on Sunday and Monday. All of these are in the teaching pool.

Southend offers no family slots on Saturday and only two on Sunday. Swimmers are also restricted to lanes and the limited numbers of slots available are mostly booked, leaving people to struggle with the online-only booking system. Residents are also struggling to access squash courts at the centres.

Shoebury resident Paul Wallace said the problems have been made worse with the closure of DW Fitness First in Thorpe Bay. He said: “We know it is impossible on Saturday between Clements and Garons to use the main pool and only Garons has one family swim on Sundays which is always fully booked. I’m a squash player that was based out of DW fitness and ran a team from Clements Hall.

“So since March 2020 that has basically been destroyed in the Southend area. I think Southend will be the most populated town in the UK without squash courts now DW Fitness has closed.

This is a town that has provided training for former world champions through the years.”

Councillor Tony Cox leader of the Conservative group on Southend Council has previously raised the issue but things have yet to improve.

He said: “It’s a shambles. It’s beyond me. If you look at the whole leisure provision like museums only opening on Saturdays there’s no accessibility. It’s high time we gave Fusion the red card.”

Mike Webb, Rochford District councillor responsible for business, local economy and leisure, defended Fusion’s track record at Clements Hall.

He said: “As a council we work very closely with Fusion to provide the best possible service. They are back to their pre-COVID offer. They are still investing in the site by refurbishing the squash court roof and have invested hundreds of thousands of pounds in the property.

“Where there are specific issues, I’m happy to look address that and where complaints are made we will absolutely look into them but we still have a top quality offer in the district where a lot have had to close there’s.”

A spokeswoman for Fusion Lifestyle said: “We are delighted that residents in both Rochford and Southend are excited to get back to their local leisure facilities..

“In particular our Swim School programmes are proving very popular and we have increased the number of sessions available in both areas.  We are working to add even more sessions to meet the increase in demand.

“Swim capacity in Southend will further increase later this month when the dive pool at Southend Leisure and Tennis Centre reopens.

“At Clements Hall Leisure Centre in Rochford you can also play squash; a fast and dynamic sport, and a  great way to get fit and have fun.  We have 6 courts in total, two are temporarily closed while they undergo maintenance, they will be open again by the end of September.

“We have recently been made aware that some centre users have had difficulties using the online booking system. We have checked and this is fully operational. However, we would encourage anyone having trouble to contact their centre, where the teams will be happy to help and answer any questions.”

Mick Ferris

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